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I agree with the previous posts, and wish to add that Venezuela faces an economic development issue in that its known oil reserves will be exhausted at current rates of production within the next 25 - 30 years, and it is very important for that country to use its current oil export revenue to diversify the economy for that eventuality.
Currently, under President Hugo Chavez, that is not happening. He is a President that relies largely on a base of voting and popular support with Venezuela's poorer segments of society, so he must continue large and expensive social programs aimed at directly benefiting these populations in order to maintain electoral power for him and his party.
Unfortunately, this means that the oil wealth the country has been blessed with is being spent towards near term political goals rather than long term economic ones which might provide stability and prosperity to its population beyond the next quarter century.
The previous post was accurate here. I think that the answer reflects another issue that faces Venezuela. In the globalized setting, where information, commodities, and wealth travel freely without any sort of ideological barrier, how does the emergence of the solitary figure in leading government play into this configuration? The "superman" leader in government is something that we have seen in the 1930s, with the rise of European Fascism, in America with FDR, in World War II, and even in the Cold War. Yet, in this new era of globalization, how do competitive nations, which are gravitating to free market principles and, by almost default, more openness in the democratic setting, reconcile their reality with the nations like Venezuela who still have a superman in power? It seems to me that globalization has reduced everything to a sense of identification through things- ideas, economies, technology. People, and particularly the political superman, have to adjust to this. Chavez seems to be a throwback in this light, reminiscent of the Castro idea brought out in the previous post. How is he going to approach Venezuela's participation in the globalization process? I think that this is going to be a major issue as Venezuela goes forward. Along these lines, how will Venezuela take this reality and combine it with its petroleum resources? It seems to me that with the discomfort with the petroleum business in the Gulf, and the drying up of well fields all over the world, Venezuela can have a major say in the petro- energy industry. This might be another reality that is directly tied into the first one to form a major political and economic set of issues that Venezuela might have to resolve.
To me, the major issue that faces Venezuela is whether it wants to be a democracy or whether it wants to be a dictatorship in the style of Cuba. All other issues are, to me, secondary to this one.
Over the last few years, Hugo Chavez has been explicitly trying to make Venezuela more socialist or "Bolivarian." In practice, what this means is that he is trying to take more power for himself. He is seriously cutting back on things like freedom of the press and the autonomy of other levels of government.
Venezuela is faced with a choice of sorts -- they can keep on allowing Chavez to take more power or they can try to pull power back from them and retain more of the democracy that they have had.
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